Friday, October 13, 2006

Kate's "Mom"

I sent an email to the lady who owns Kate the Ewe letting her know I had purchased the fleece and she wrote me back! I reprint her letter (in near entirety) with her permission.

Hi Cate,
You must be reading my mind--I have coated the entire flock this year. Last year everyone started out with coats, but as the fleeces grew out, I didn't have enough of the larger coats to go around for everyone and, by lambing, none of the full grown ewes had coats. I was also very leery of having the mamas lamb with coats on--don't want delivered lambs hung up on coats and strangled while lambing.

The coats are $15-$18 each depending on size and it is a large investment when each individual adult sheep will go through 3 different coat sizes due to fleece growth and lambs can go through twice that many as they get gain frame size and their fleece gets longer. Would love to say that the coats are reusable, but as I am finding out, the adults tend to stretch the elastic out to the point that it no longer retracts (Which leaves the coat too long and loose to reuse) and tear holes in it. Only a fraction of the adult coats can be reused.

This year I'm going to try have the shearing done in February, before the lambs start arriving in the beginning of March. That way I can watch the ewes closer for signs of lambing, the babies can get a better start at finding mama's milk since it won't be hidden, the babies won't get chilled from cuddling with a mama that has a full damp fleece, there will be more space in the barn (you'd be shocked by how much room a big full-fleeced fat pregnant ewe can take up), and I can keep the fleeces a little cleaner.

I would be delighted to sell fleeces straight from the farm if you would be interested in coming out sometime in March or April. (I'm not sure where Heathsville is--I'm located just over the mountain from Charlottesville on Rte 33--it took me less than an hour to get to Montpelier). In May I take some of my best fleeces to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival to sell. In mid-May I will have a booth in Berryville at their fiber festival to sell fleeces, fresh lamb cuts, and hopefully tanned hides--I slaughter lambs this month and if the hides are ready by May, I'll be selling them.
I have a pretty good variety of colors in the flock. A number of true blacks, a couple of moorits (browns), a cream colored Tunis, a few whites, a few of my blacks now turning gray, a black and white spotted one, a very light beige and white spotted one, and I think that I will have one true gray--right now she's only 2 months old and there isn't a lot of fleece length to judge color. She's either really shiny or she's gray! There will be a total of 17 fleeces to be shorn when the time comes.

I am also introducing new breeds into the flock--I'm crossing some of my Rambouillet ewes to a black Merino ram and the others to a white Romadale ram that has a CVM parent (California Variegated Mutant-they carry color patterns and are not solid colored)--I'm really looking forward to lambing season to see how fleece quality, growth rate, and color are affected by the new rams.

Well, I enjoyed reading your blog and seeing Kate's fleece. We'll try to make your cleaning job just a little easier next time around!

In the letter responding to this, I asked if I could quote her in the blog and also asked if she would consider a visit from myself and a friend in the Spring. She invited us right along and said she would contact me again near to the right time.

I wonder which of my spinning friends would like to go?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

do you have pictures yet of the fleece after it dried?